Afternoon InquisitionReligion

AI: NPR Fires Williams

News analyst Juan Williams, who has written extensively on race and civil rights, was fired today by National Public Radio after comments he made about Muslims on the Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Responding to a question about Bill O’Reilly’s appearance on “The View”, during which hosts Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set in protest of O’Reilly’s views on Muslims, Williams said that too much political correctness can get in the way of reality. He also said:

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the Civil Rights movement in this country. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

NPR issued a statement saying Williams’ remarks were  not consistent with their editorial standards and practices. The statement said the remarks undermined his credibility as a news analyst.

What are your thoughts?

Is the firing justified? Does political correctness get in the way of reality? Are we just hyper-sensitive to racial and cultural statements these days? Are Williams’ remarks hypocritical, considering his background as a civil rights journalist? Is it abhorrent for a non-Muslim to react with apprehension when seeing a Muslim on a plane? Is it natural?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. I think it is justified, but only in the context of NPR guidelines on what you can and cannot say when working outside of NPR. Basically you are supposed to keep your objectivity hat on at all times when you are on mic.

    Firing him rather than giving him a stern warning may have been a bit harsh, but Juan had already been demoted before over conflicts with NPR. It is possible they were fed up and just looking for an excuse.

    I have listened to other NPR pundits for years: Daniel Schorr, Kevin Phillips, and Ted Koppel to name three. In comparison I would have fired Williams long ago for just being obvious and boring.

  2. I think the firing is absolutely justified. His statement made an incorrect generalization about a group of religious people, and his background doesn’t excuse what he said. I don’t think his reaction is natural for anyone who is informed about the difference between a muslim and a terrorist.

    Certainly you’re allowed to have an opinion and share it with others, but I think his comments were ignorant, unfair, and insulting, which are not qualities NPR would want to be associated with.

  3. Is the firing justified? Yes. The man claimed to not like people for LOOKING LIKE Muslims.

    Does political correctness get in the way of reality? Sometimes. But other times it is a perfect reaction.

    Are we just hyper-sensitive to racial and cultural statements these days? Again, sometimes. Some times the sentiments are valid, sometimes not.

    Are Williams’ remarks hypocritical, considering his background as a civil rights journalist? Yes, I think so. Actions count. Looks do not.

    Is it abhorrent (spelling) for a non-Muslim to react with apprehension when seeing a Muslim on a plane? Is it natural? abhorrent – No. Natural – yes, especially for those with lesser exposure.

  4. Too much obvious racism has been accepted and ignored in recent weeks, especially among right-wing political candidates and pundits. It’s about time someone got held to account for it, imho. It’s not political correctness anymore, it’s about resisting bigotry before it becomes socially normal to be a bigot.

  5. I used to rail against “PC”, then I realized that while the term is a relatively recent invention, the concept “there are things you just don’t say in public without repercussion” has been around forever. We just change the topcis every couple of decades or so…or maybe I’m just over cynical. :)

    People get fired (or worse) for expressing honest (and popularly unacceptable) opinions in public all the time. Everyone else learns the object lesson or doesn’t.

  6. In theory, journalists are supposed to be neutral and objective. [Obviously, vide Faux News, only in theory.] That means a journalist, whatever his/her personal feelings, needs to refrain from making such comments in a public arena or openly engaging in political activity. That’s a job requirement, and any journalist worth its salt knows that. Williams’ outburst shows that he doesn’t grasp what is required of him.

    And the rightwingers’ bitching that NPR is ‘funded with our tax dollars” is 91.2% off the mark – NPR only gets 8.8% of its funds from government sources. Even if it were 100% funded by government, journalistic standards would require that Williams be fired; he crossed the bright line with his comments.

  7. His own remarks taken alone are just right over the line, in my opinion. If he talked about his fear, but stated that it was irrational, I think that would be fine. We should be able to talk about our prejudices openly. That’s how we address them and improve. But he went on to defend his fear, rationalize it, and expound on it. Maybe that’s not a firing offense, but it’s definitely unacceptable.

    But context is everything, and the fact that he was sympathetic to and defending the comments O’Reilly made on The View is beyond the pale. That takes him out of his role maintaining editorial neutrality and into the career of cheap performer-pundit. If he wants to join that freak show circus, fine. But he is the one who chose to compromise his journalistic integrity to get attention.

    Keep that clown pseudo-journalist shit off NPR.

  8. You know, I fly relatively regularly, and it’s not unusual at all for me to see someone wearing “Muslim garb”… and it has never once occurred to me to be something to be concerned about. I don’t get worried. I don’t get nervous. I simply do not understand this mindset…

    I think @delphi_ote has it exactly right: If he stated “I get worried. I get nervous.” And immediately followed it up with “but that’s totally irrational…” then this would be a different picture, more in line with the Breitbarting done to Sherry Sherrod earlier this summer.

    But no, Williams essentially says “Hey, it’s not MY fault they all choose to dress like terrorists.”

    Good riddance.

  9. Anybody on a plane dressed in Muslim garb has with near certainty been under far more security scrutiny than anyone else due to profiling. So, logically, the more people on board dressed thus, the safer you should feel.
    Regardless, you’re still safer on that plane than you are driving your car on the road.

  10. «I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried.»

    No, he should not have been fired. He didn’t say he ought to fear it, or that he thinks it’s a rational fear; it was a simple statement of fact.

  11. I didn’t see the show so I don’t know how out of context the above quote is, but I feel the same way. But then I’m nervous about groups of black men, Hispanic men, white tattooed men, etc.

    Are people not allowed to feel anymore? I think bigotry shows in your actions rather than your feelings. I have personal opinions regarding many types of people but I try to be extremely fair in my actions. Isn’t that what really matters?

  12. “Is the firing justified?”

    No, not really.

    “Does political correctness get in the way of reality?”

    It certainly can and frequently does. Political correctness is the shadow-ideological wing of censorship.

    “Are we just hyper-sensitive to racial and cultural statements these days?”

    Indeed we are. I think my quoted Feiffer cartoon some weeks ago was a good example of it too (searched for it; couldn’t find it).

    “Are Williams’ remarks hypocritical, considering his background as a civil rights journalist?”

    No. But somewhat distasteful.

    “Is it abhorrent for a non-Muslim to react with apprehension when seeing a Muslim on a plane? Is it natural?”

    Abhorrent? No, but irrational maybe. Natural? Perhaps, especially considering the media’s treatment of Islam in general, it becomes quite difficult to stop the old R-complex lizrd brain from reacting with an unnecessary gut reaction toward the “evil” stereotype.

    We need to remember that these sorts of reactions are initially not born out of the cerbral cortex; they come from deeper than that and are therefore unstoppable. It’s what we then do with our reaction that counts. So, in that case, it;s quite natural and normal for many folks to feel the fear he felt. Whether or not he then maintains that fear and/or somehow acts on it is what counts.

  13. I’ve only seen the small-ish portion of the statement that got him fired. I haven’t seen the whole segment, so I don’t know what else was said, or in what context. But from what I have seen, I gotta wonder…

    We are all racist. We are all prejudiced. It’s human nature. Some of us are just better at recognizing and coping with those tendencies within ourselves than others. Some of us have maybe had more practice, or more experience. Or have taken different lessons from different sources.

    I’ve got to admit that I don’t really have much of a problem with Muslims. I see them from time to time in the street, and they don’t bother me. Maybe I’m a little desensitized, having gone to school with them, and having worked with them in the past. I’ve seen once or twice, someone doing their prayer time right in the middle of the corridor at the mall. I don’t know why: Maybe the poor guy couldn’t get home, or to the Mosque in time, so he picked the closest, low-traffic corner he could find. It’s a little unusual, but having educated myself about their customs, I sort-of understand, and I didn’t let it bother me.

    But I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t had prejudices catch me by surprise before. A few years back, when I worked in a restaurant, I learned that one of the waiters, a new hire, was gay. I’m a pretty liberal guy, so I didn’t expect it to bother me. But to my surprise, my prejudices, my preconceptions, started to come to the surface. I dealt with it as well as I could, but for the better part of that shift, I had a difficult time dealing with my own prejudices, that up until then, I didn’t even know that I had. And I tried not to let on, but I think he might have noticed, and had the decency to give me some space. But I did eventually deal with it, and I worked with him for a good three or four years, and never had a problem with it again.

    It happens. It’s human nature. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having these kind of feelings, and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with admitting it. What matters is how we deal with it. Just because someone has feelings of prejudice, or uneasiness around someone whose culture or lifestyle they’re unfamiliar with, doesn’t mean that they have to act on those feelings. The feelings don’t matter, so much as how we cope with them, and how they define our actions.

    From the quote I’ve read, and this being only the second article I’ve read on it, I get the impression that there’s more from that segment that’s not being publicized. So Williams feels uneasy traveling with people who wear Muslim garb. I can understand that. What’s important isn’t how he feels, but how he deals with it. Does he remind himself that they’re people too, and have as much right to travel on that plane as he does? Does he cope with his prejudices as best he can? Or does he go to the flight attendant or the air marshal, and refuse to fly with “those people”?

    I’ve flown with Muslims before. Yes, I noticed them. But I didn’t let it bother me, because I’ve had exposure to their culture before, and whatever prejudices I may have, I’ve learned to deal with them. And if my prejudices arise again some day, I’ll deal with it again, if I have to.

    Prejudice is human. We all have it. We all have to learn to deal with it. Self improvement doesn’t come from stifling our prejudices; it comes from recognizing them, accepting them, and learning to deal with them in healthy ways.

    I sincerely hope that Williams wasn’t fired for the simple innocuous act of admitting his human nature. I hope whatever details of the story I’m ignorant of would shed further light on the matter. If not, then he doesn’t deserve to be fired for admitting that he’s human.

  14. I think political correctness inhibits the growth of our society. And the problem is on the side of the people who are offended. Stereotypically, those who are offended get loud and demand retribution. When an ignorant person says something stupid, it does no good to beat them and leave it at that.

    A more useful reaction by the person offended is to respond by saying, “That offends me because…” Teach the person something. Even give him an opportunity to respond to the person offended to support his statement. There are certainly situations where the offended person is the one needing an education.

  15. Williams is an OpEd political pundit, and he rarely operated as a journalist for NPR because his job was to offer opinions and commentary. I don’t think he should have been fired because Williams was just saying how he feels when he sees someone which seemed like some honesty to me. I suppose it was an unfortunate thing to say given the context, and if given the chance Williams may have added that he was not proud to feel that way and/or he needs to asses why he has those feelings. And if anyone wants to call me a bigot for walking on the other side of the street when I see some of our local Juggleo morons on a street corner have at it, because my feelings are based on known behaviors of people who look like Juggleo’s. Perhaps Williams has some strong feelings about 9-11 and being on a plane brings up those feelings…, who knows. Also the notion that NPR operates as a neutral arbiter of the news is a laughable joke to me. I’m fairly liberal in most of my social and political views so I don’t have a dog in the fight so to speak; but NPR is almost always skewed toward a liberal perspective and often lacks any semblance of neutrality in its coverage and analysis of the news; which is why I sometimes find NPR as irritating as Fox News, because their agenda is so obvious, but they’re not honest enough to be up front about it with their viewers and listeners.

  16. It’s a bit harsh to fire him. I find his views, as expressed, silly. But that’s free speech. If he’s not been given any chance to defend his views, then firing him is an overreaction.

    Watching the O’Reilly/Goldberg clip, O’Reilly is still a blotchy, lying bully, copyright Al Franken.

  17. Hmmm, let’s see…

    Is the firing justified?
    I don’t think losing his job over one comment, however distasteful, sounds fair. A public lambasting and required apology would have satisifed me.

    Does political correctness get in the way of reality?
    I definitely think it can do, as it is easy to take political correctness too far, but I do not that is the case in this scenario. The comments were inappropriate and pretty hard to defend without, as others have mentioned, an attempt to show that he was trying to overcome his innate prejudice, or at least acknowledge that he knows it is wrong.

    Is it abhorrent for a non-Muslim to react with apprehension when seeing a Muslim on a plane?
    I’m not so sure about abhorrent, but I think it’s wrong, and I think the appropriate reaction for a person who does feel apprehensive is to be embarrassed, reflect on their process and resolve to do better next time.

    I’ll hold my hands up and say that I am not without prejudice myself. It’s not that I think badly of someone for being a different colour / culture to me, because I was taught better than that, but sometimes I’m just a bit surprised to see them. When I was a child there just weren’t any non-white people where I live (Ireland). More recently there has been a lot of immigration from various parts of the world. So I have a tendency to assume that non-white people are not Irish. Often this assumption is correct, but that doesn’t stop me being completely mortified by the occasional unexpected Dublin accent. But I feel guilty about it and I try not to do it the next time. It sounds a little as though this guy is trying to say it’s ok to think someone is a terrorist because of how they dress. And it’s not.

    Personally I have never felt a tingle of worry about Muslims in an airport or on a plane. But that may have more to do with the more balanced media coverage we get over here and the fact that I work with a lot of Muslim doctors, rather than any innate shiny-amazing-pureness-of-spirit on my part. :)

  18. @Supertec: “Watching the O’Reilly/Goldberg clip, O’Reilly is still a blotchy, lying bully, copyright Al Franken.”

    And Williams was agreeing with O’Reilly and defending him. On national television. As a paid pundit. He absolutely should have been fired. There’s just no question.

    He clearly decided he wanted to be a pundit instead of a journalist. Hell, we’re probably looking at his audition tape for an upcoming Fox News show.

    All these little self indulgent novellas people have written here about “political correctness run amok” are so far off the mark it’s not even funny. Stop wringing your hands and fretting about your freedom to express white guilt for a couple seconds and think about what actually happened.

  19. Apologies for double-posting. I wanted to add the caveat that I am not familiar with the TV / radio personalities involved, or NPR generally. However I just watched the ‘walking off set’ clip and I think I can assure you that American TV is far less politically correct than Irish TV :)

  20. It looks like I remembered correctly. NPR is not treating this as an isolated incident:

    Second, this isn’t the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan’s public comments. Despite many conversations and warnings over the years, Juan has continued to violate this principal.

    Read the whole statement here:

  21. I have no problem with him being fired. NPR can do whatever they want. The guy said muslims make him nervous. He isn’t alone in that, and admitting it shouldn’t “undermine his credibility”.

    And for that matter, O’Reilly saying on The View that, “muslims killed us on 9/11,” was a true statement – granted he’s a bigotted buffoon, but that doesn’t make everything he says wrong. The hosts’ walkoff was a transparent publicity stunt. They invited O’Reilly on the show so they could be faux-offended by something and walk off.

  22. If this were an isolated incident I would say his firing wasn’t justified.

    But Williams has been backing up the opinions of those on “Fox News” for years with an occasional bigoted statement like this emerging. He has been given plenty of leeway a far as his punditry is concerned and finally stacked the horseshit high enough that he got spattered when it fell over.

    I can’t say I feel too sad for him; he will be able to provide his views to “Fox News” on a full time basis. If he squirts out a few tears he may even get his own show.

    As to whether political correctness is out of control; I’d say yes sometimes.
    What people sometimes forget about free speech is that it’s the government that can’t restrict your speech. The first amendment puts no restrictions on employers, neighbors, family members, or anyone else restricting your free speech.
    You can be fired for saying stupid things, you can be ostracized for writing religion sucks on your car, you have the right to tell your children what they cannot say in your house, all of these things are perfectly legal. They may not be right, but they are legal.

    The one thing that people take from the first amendment that really gets me is an expectation to not be offended. If we simply tuned out speech that offended us or opposed it with our own speech instead of looking for the powers that be to ban it we would all be better off.


  23. Hmmm when I get on a plane (or even walk down the street) and I see a Muslim does the thought that they could blow up enter my head? Yes of course it does. Is it a rational fear? Is it likely to happen? No. Similar thoughts enter my head when I see a guy wearing gold chains around his neck and a baggy coat. I think it’s perfectly natural to think of these things. Especially when people are talking about them. I equate this with the same one off thoughts that enter your head when you see an attractive woman. This might scare some of you, but emotional and primitive thoughts cannot be “unthought”. Luckily with the rational brain they can be nothing more than quick thoughts.

  24. Is the firing justified?” — Probably, but it depends on his contract.

    If it was purely his comments, then no. BUT – it’s likely it was simply the fact that he appeared on the show and did this under a title as an NPR employee. If that’s a no-no according to contract, firing might be legit.

  25. I think we need to maintain that there is a difference between being politically incorrect and being racist. Political correctness is trying to avoid comments and actions that are inoffensive in your own culture but offensive to others. The key point being that there is no malicious intent. There are times when political correctness is warranted and times when it isn’t. Straight up racism should never be tolerated or accepted and I think we should avoid letting the racists drag it into a political correctness debate. That’s their way of trying to make racism more acceptable and it should be opposed. The statement above clearly implies that he thinks muslims are terrorists, that’s plain old racism.

  26. @James Fox: I really can’t say it better than you have. It’s another example of why we became immediate friends at TAM, because people with similar opinions always sees the other as an attractive and bright person. And you’re purtee.

  27. Justified. The fear mongering the people at Fox and especially O’Reilly do is enough reason to be careful not to feed into their deep hatred of Islam. He really dropped the ball here by buying into their bait here.

  28. It sounds like a case of “lying down with dogs”. If Juan Williams wants to play in that arena of controversial punditry then he needs to find a less responsible employer.

  29. @James Fox: Some of the nicest people are know are juggalos and I’ve never met one that was violent or even rude. If these people are not acting in a threatening manner then yes I would call you a bigot, not because you are afraid of them but because you claim that fear is justified.

    All of us hold unfair or irrational views about certain groups of people or have at some point in our lives. The point is to realise the problem and work to correct it. I don’t have a problem with people who say that they’re afraid of muslims and are trying to change that, I do have a problem with someone who says I’m afraid of muslims and that’s OK. He did go onto say that not all muslims are terrorists and it’s unfair to label them all as such while defending his fear of anyone who identifies as a muslim. I don’t think that’s sufficient, it’s the kind of double speak we hear all the time from racists, it’s not to discourage racism but rather to try and exclude their blatantly racist views from being viewed as such.

  30. What’s bothering me more now is that NPR is being accused of “censorship.” How can it be censorship when the guy wasn’t even on NPR at the time? They didn’t censor anything, they just fired a guy. And if they didn’t let him speak his views on this stuff in the first place, it’s hardly “quashing opinion.” I don’t really know or care whether Williams should have been fired, but these ridiculous statements are…well, ridiculous.

  31. @James Fox: I would like to have seen Juan Williams been given a chance to explain his comments (though the latest I’ve seen do not appear in the least concilliatory… though he has now been fired), it appears that he violated an NPR policy on journalistic neutrality. I cant’ think of any specific examples of non-neutral reporting that I have heard him do. However, with the exception of some Daniel Schorr pieces of a couple of years ago, I would not describe NPR as ideologically leftist. If James Fox thinks that NPR is as bad as Fox “News” or even as bad as Fox “News” on a miniscul-ly fractional basis, I don’t think much of his objectivity.

    Let’s just point out that NONE of the 9/11 hijackers were dressed in “muslim garb.” Nor Richard Reid, etc. … If you are a westerner worried about people dressed in, “muslim garb” you have a very poor discriminatory ability, since statistically they are not likely to be the ones killing westerners *not* in a war zone.

  32. Is the firing justified? Hard to tell. I want to answer “not enough information” here, but if I have to pick a side, I’m inclined to say yes.

    Does political correctness get in the way of reality?
    Sometimes. If you haven’t already, grab a copy of “Politically Correct Fairy Tales”, a great book where you can read such stories as “The three co-dependent goats Gruff” or “The sleeping person of above average attractiveness” or some such. Political correctness, when taken to extremes is ridiculous and does in fact make things worse. But there aren’t many things that can survive unscathed when taken to extremes. The principle is sound. Political correctness is about respect.

    Is it abhorrent for a non-Muslim to react with apprehension when seeing a Muslim on a plane? Is it natural?
    As many have said before me, we all have irrational feelings. Thoughts that cross our minds that we’re not especially proud of. But that’s the point right there. We know this is a gut reaction, and unjustified, and we’re aware that we’re wrong. We deal with it as with an optical illusion. We may seek to explain it in order not to fall for the illusion again. We don’t try to claim the illusion as fact.

  33. Is it politically incorrect to become all freaked out when getting on a plane with humans? You can tell which ones they are by the clothes they wear. Usually some sort of cotten blend. Did you know, looking at recent history, 99.9 percent of all terroristic attacks were enacted by humans. That’s almost like 100%!

    Not a bigot but, honestly, what is WRONG with ‘those people’?

    Personally, the term ‘respect’ sounds so much better than ‘political correctness’.

  34. Williams’ comment above taken out of context DOES sound more than a bit bigoted, but if you read the entire transcript you’ll realize he said what he did to set up his larger message — that we should NOT discriminate against people DESPITE our fears.

    And Williams has publicly responded:

    I like listening to NPR. One of the reasons I do is precisely BECAUSE it offers viewpoints from many different observers — like Juan Williams. Obviously, NPR can handle personnel decisions however it sees fit, but personally I think it’s pretty shitty Williams wasn’t even given a chance to speak on his own behalf before the decision was made to can him.

    On another note, here’s what WON’T get you fired from NPR:

    Despite that comment, Nina Totenberg remains an NPR legal news analyst.

  35. «I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried.»

    OK, substitute the words “right-wing Chritian zealot” or “n—-r” for “Muslim” and then check your gut.

    Yes, it’s irrational fear and he should have said so in his comment. I think it is a bigoted statement as stated. If he had admitted it was an irrational fear, he would have been on safe ground.

    I definitely agree with davew above where he said that statements that start with “I’m not a bigot, but…” tend to be followed by an immediate case of “foot in mouth” disease. It’s also not his first time, as davew also noted. It’s also entirely possible that there’s more behind his firing than just those incidents.

  36. Oh. My. FSM.

    What the heck is going on with so many people being afraid of people for their RELIGION? You can’t even say it was 9/11, if you’re talking to a proper skeptic. The actions of 9/11 were not religious; they were political. I feel like it is skeptically acceptable to say, “I feel uncomfortable getting on a plane with someone who has political ties with a terrorist group that has a history of targeting planes.” It is not skeptceptable to say, “Because it is easier to see one common trait between [the aforementioned group of people] that is different from myself, I will focus on that trait rather than the actual problem.”

    All dogs are animals with four legs. All animals with four legs aren’t dogs. (In this case, I suppose it might be “an uninformed person might believe all dogs have…”).

  37. @JamesFox

    NPR is indeed to the left of most other news outlets, not because of any form of “true” objectivity, but because other major news outlets (corporate news as I like to call it) is either blatantly right-leaning (Fox), left-leaning and afraid to look it (MSNBC) and therefore overcompensating, or more central and hypersensitive to any claim of bias (CNN) and therefore overcompensating.

    The only outlet I can think of that is truly subjective (at least the last time I watched) is C-SPAN and that is because there is little to no commentary. The coverage is simply point-and-shoot and the calls are mostly unfiltered. It’s nice to have this particular viewpoint occasionally, but it would be too boring to have 4 or 5 channels of it 24/7.

    I don’t believe anyone is pretending that NPR (or PBS as they have been pulled into this) is completely unbiased and the few statements I have heard about their objectivity called it into question. This may in fact become a way for the right wing in this country to justify de-funding public broadcasting. I find that to be sad. The public needs a place to go to get a more balanced (if not perfectly balanced) view of the news in a society that is increasingly isolated by its ability to see only what it wishes to see.

    To paraphrase Stephen Colbert; the reason NPR seems liberal is because reality has a liberal bias.

  38. @slxpluvs

    It’s tall bald dudes that make me nervous.
    And cute middle-aged pseudo housewives.
    And drug addled radio talk show bloviators.
    And nutjobs holding racist, homophobic, sexist, or xenophobic signs. (BTW, can Adobe sue for the unathorised use of its product?)

    Just sayin’.

  39. The firing is absolutely justified, he wouldn’t be able to get on the O’Reilly Factor if he wasn’t a journalist for NPR.

    He now has a 3-year, $2 million contract with Fox. WTF is he whining about?

  40. @mrmisconception: The only outlet I can think of that is truly subjective (at least the last time I watched) is C-SPAN and that is because there is little to no commentary.

    I recommend the BBC for heavy news, light commentary ratio. And when they do get personal with shows like Reporter’s Notebook oh my gosh is it awesome. Many NPR stations run BBC all night long which pairs nicely with insomnia.

  41. Legal, in terms of the letter of the law? Most likely, would need to see his employment contract. Justified? Yes. NPR can reasonably argue that as an analyst the remark undermined his credibility which directly impacts his ability to do his job. Not to mention I would put significant odds that his contract has clauses for just this type of situation.

    Just out of curiosity, if he was a Science reporter for NPR and publicly talked about believing in creationisms, would we find his termination justifiable? It would certainly undermine my belief in his creditability.

  42. @Tortorific:
    Firstly, Williams did not defend his feelings nor did he say all Muslims are terrorists. He said he had feelings in a particular situation ; how amazingly unique.

    Secondly, I work in a state system that tries to intervene with at risk youth, and I also work with the juvenile court system and local law enforcement. I’ve been involved with teenage victims of Juggleo’s who have been sexually assaulted and beat. I’ve also been involved with many teenagers who identified themselves as Juggleo’s who have been victimized by other Juggelo’s, assaulted strangers, and assaulted parents and/or siblings who used their Juggleoishness as an excuse. Anyone, and I mean anyone at all, who calls themselves a Juggleo and understands what this group stands for, has made a significant decision to tell the world that they have turned off their rational thinking skills; not to mention giving their tacit approval of making threats, bullying, and using intimidation and violence. You may know some nice Juggleo’s, but they have made a colossally stupid decision to align themselves with a group of people who are often pathetic, frequently nasty, lacking social responsibility, and even hostile toward science and education.

    @Finn McR: Never said they were as bad. I said they were sometimes as irritating (to me, an opinion, my opinion) because of their obvious agenda…

    @halincoh: I have a date lined up with my wife this evening. Clearly I’m going to have problems not thinking about you the whole time. ;-)

    @mrmisconception: Nobody is completely objective, but I appreciate it when journalists make the effort. And even the editors at C-Span make decisions about who and what gets on air.

  43. Man, a lot of skeptics buying into the whole “political correctness” nonsense here, and that’s a little disappointing. It’s a meme perpetuated by right-wing bigots and idiots who have no awareness of privilege and skeptics should not be helping them to do so.

    There are no PC Police and there is no such thing as political correctness, as far as I can tell. Every idiot who I’ve ever heard whine about PC is an asshole who was called out by a large number of people for being an asshole. It never involves actual censorship, just some overgrown baby who is upset that he’s not allowed to say whatever dumbass thing he wants without societal repercussions.

    “PC” is a term used by bigots who have never examined their own privilege, but are sure they are “telling it like it is”. Going on a national news/opinion show and reciting a xenophobic/racist talking point without an ounce of shame is a stupid thing to do. He’s drumming up populist fear against a group that already has a hard enough time with discrimination. Whoever said above that “muslims did 9/11” is a fool. A group of muslims were responsible for that atrocity, but muslims in general were not. This is not a hard distinction for an intelligent person to make.

    Do we all have inate prejudices? Maybe, probably, but the correct response isn’t “I SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO HAVE A KNEEJERK FEAR OF WHOEVER I WANT,” but “Oh man, where did that come from? How embarrassing.” C’mon people, don’t buy into this nonsense.

  44. @James Fox:
    “I have a date lined up with my wife this evening. Clearly I’m going to have problems not thinking about you the whole time.”

    And THAT, my friend, was funny.

    Please, please , please … let me be on top.

  45. @mikerattlesnake: That’s exactly what I was going to say. I’ve never understood why everyone universally accepts that we are “too PC” when the only people that loudly declare they aren’t PC are assholes saying racist or otherwise hurtful things. I mean, if that’s what being “PC” means, we should all strive to be that way, right?

  46. Do we all have inate prejudices? Maybe, probably, but the correct response isn’t “I SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO HAVE A KNEEJERK FEAR OF WHOEVER I WANT,” but “Oh man, where did that come from? How embarrassing.” C’mon people, don’t buy into this nonsense.

    Or one might say, as did Juan Williams, “I get nervous around certain people in certain situations, and I recognize why. And I also feel strongly I shouldn’t allow my fear to develop into a prejudice.”

    There is a great hue and cry for a dialog in this country about race and racism. Here is a man who expressed his honest fear along with a desire not to allow that fear to influence his actions and behavior toward others. This seems to me exactly the kind of dialog we need.

  47. @mikerattlesnake:

    Man, a lot of skeptics buying into the whole “political correctness” nonsense here, and that’s a little disappointing. It’s a meme perpetuated by right-wing bigots and idiots who have no awareness of privilege and skeptics should not be helping them to do so.

    /Pop eyes

    I think I’ve got to call nonsense on that. I am by no means whatsoever a right-wing bigot. If anything I’m something of a left-wing accomodationist/conciliator.

    Nor am I an idiot. In college I researched and wrote a couple of papers on political correctness, and to say there is no such thing is simply nonsense.

    Political correctness invloves a great deal of censorship and unequivocabley includes a form of thought police-like attempts at restricting and constraining what people think, feel, and say — right-wing, left-wing, and all colours in between the wings.

    There may indeed be instances of what some people call political correctness that are in fact closer to what you’re rather shrilly and somewhat offensively decribing as “some overgrown baby who is upset that he’s not allowed to say whatever dumbass thing he wants without societal repercussions,” or “bigots who have never examined their own privilege, but are sure they are ‘telling it like it is’”. But political correctness does exist, it is not a myth, and it most certainly is not some kind of mad right-wing agenda.

    I think you may be making a wholly false association of political correctness with plain bigotry, and getting your bathwater mixed up with your baby … so to speak.

  48. @delphi_ote “He clearly decided he wanted to be a pundit instead of a journalist. Hell, we’re probably looking at his audition tape for an upcoming Fox News show.”

    How prescient.

  49. @daedalus2u: Sounds like a sports trade. Maybe NPR is trying to stay under the salary cap, trading Williams to Faux for a journalist to be named later, who turns out to be Williams. After all, journalism, like sports, is mostly a business…

  50. @John Greg: Sorry, I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen a situation where either a) the person claiming censorship by the PC police was not clearly an asshole or b) the situation was not corrected by intelligent discussion of the issue and the censored party was not apologized to and vindicated.

    If you’ve written several papers on the subject, you should definitely have more than bald assertions to bring to the table.

  51. Yes. Freedom of speech does not guarantee you a spot on national radio. NPR was the right to decide who speaks for them. From what I understand this was just one problem in a long string of problems.

    Secondly, I have never heard anyone say, “I’m not a bigot, but…..” and have it turn out well.

  52. @ mikerattlesnake said, “…you should definitely have more than bald assertions to bring to the table.”

    But isn’t that what you’ve brought? You claimed there is no such thing as “Political Correctness,” suggesting the concept exists only in the minds of “right-wing bigots and idiots.” But you’ve supplied no evidence to support your claim beyond your own beliefs and anecdotal evidence.

    While I certainly respect your opinion on the matter, it does not provide an end to the debate. If you like anecdotes, having served 20 years in the US military I can supply you with MANY examples of how “political correctness” (choose another term if you dislike that one) influenced attitudes and behavior among serving military members.

    Click here to see a list of some of the books Juan Williams has written about racism and the civil rights movement in America. You may disagree with the (out of context) comment NPR initially used as justification for terminating his contract, but a review of his scholarship should more than allay any concerns about his purported bigotry.

    Indeed, at the very least it should serve as a spur to dig a bit deeper and get the entire story before passing judgement on his character, especially among an audience of so-called “skeptics.”

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